How To Clean Leather Motorcycle Gear
A little maintenance goes a long way towards making your second skin last longer and look good
Motorcyclists and leather go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Seriously. Ask any motorcyclist what it was like when they bought their first leather jacket, and you may see grown men cry as they reminisce about the new leather smell and how, over time, the jacket came to fit them like a second skin. Unfortunately, riding in your favorite gear subjects it to bug impacts, dirt, and even rain, which all take away its luster. However, quality leather can last a rider many riding seasons and maintain that optimal balance between broken in and factory new – if a few care procedures are followed.
Regular post-ride spot cleaning will prevent that colorful bug splat from becoming a permanent stain. The process is easy, too. Take a clean damp cloth, hold it over the dirt/bug/whatever, and let it soften a few seconds before you wipe it away. You may need to apply this technique a few times (each with a clean section of that soft cloth), but it will remove some remarkably messy impacts. If you do this frequently, you won’t need to do the major cleanings as often. When the time comes to do a more thorough cleaning, you should still begin with the spot clean.
Smells and Salt
Even with vented leathers, we’re going to sweat on hot days. That sweat can lead to two ills for our beloved leather gear. First, there’s the funk that can lurk on the liner material. Second, you can see sweat stains develop on places like the sleeves if you are a heavy sweater or ride in extremely hot conditions (like, say, at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway). These are both from the salt left behind by our perspiration.
If you’re lucky, your leathers have a removable liner that can be washed. Otherwise, you’ll need to resort to chemical warfare. While many products exist, a large swath of riders counts on Anthony’s De-Salter. Anthony’s Leatherworks is a Southern California institution that has been repairing and restoring damaged leathers for years. The quality of their service has led them to handle warranty repairs for some major leather brands in the past. In recent years, they’ve marketed their own line of leather maintenance products that you’ll see in this article.
Spray Anthony’s De-Salter on the exterior salt stains on the leather and rub it into the leather with a clean rag. For funky interiors, you turn the gear inside out if you can and spray the De-Salter liberally onto the lining and rub it in with a rag. Now, you need to hang up the item and let it dry completely.
Shampoo your leather?
Although we’ve heard stories of people washing their leathers by putting them on and taking a shower – complete with soap – we don’t recommend it. Instead, use a clean rag and a leather shampoo, like Anthony’s Easy Cleaner. Moisten the rag with Easy Cleaner and work it into any areas that have leftover spots/stains from the spot cleaning step. After that, apply it liberally to the exterior of the leather with the rag, switching to clean sections as the rag picks up dirt. Once you’re happy with the degree of cleaning, hang your gear up and let it dry completely.
Conditioning – pay it forward
Leather is skin, and like our skin, it looks better when it’s moisturized. Additionally, moist, supple leather will do a better job of protecting you in a crash than dried, cracked leather. Just wearing your gear out on the road speeds the drying process. Cleaning your leather, even with quality products like Anthony’s Easy Cleaner, also dries out the natural fibers within the leather. So, you need to replenish the oils that keep leather looking good.
Anthony’s One-Step Conditioner has the natural oils your gear is thirsty for. All you need to do is spray over your gear and then rub it into the leather with a sponge. (I like to work on one section at a time.) If you’ve neglected your leather, you may see the conditioner immediately soak into the leather, and you can spray more onto the sponge and wipe again. Once you’ve worked the conditioner into the entire garment, let it dry completely.
When the garment is dry, you may notice a dull haze on the formerly glossy surface. You can bring back that luster by buffing the leather’s surface with a clean, soft cloth.
That’s all you have to do to keep your leather riding gear looking – and smelling – good over the years that you wear it. If you want to learn more about the services that Anthony’s Leatherworks offers, visit the company’s website. There you can order all of the cleaners used in this article. The jacket shown in this article is the Rev’It Replica Jacket.
Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.
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